Orlando City are taking their new role as playoff favourites to heart, producing another strong performance to eliminate the Montreal Impact with a 1-0 win Saturday in the MLS is Back Tournament
Canada’s Tesho Akindele scored 15 minutes after halftime for Orlando, who recorded their first shutout since their regular season opener on February 29.
“The chemistry with the group, it was very good, especially in the first half,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said. “The second half, I think we had much, much harder opposition. Montreal came out sharper.”
Akindele’s goal came after a blunder by Montreal defender Rod Fanni who tried to pass the ball back to goalkeeper Clement Diop but instead set up Akindele for the easy tap in.
Under first-year coach Oscar Pareja, Orlando (2-1-2, 8 points) went unbeaten during Group A play to take the top spot in the four-team round robin at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
It is an unfamiliar position for the Lions who have never reached the MLS playoffs since they came into the league five years ago.
But their tournament wins over Miami and New York City FC were their first consecutive victories since a six-game winning streak early in the 2018 season.
Orlando will next play the winner of Monday’s match between the Seattle Sounders and LAFC in the quarter-finals on Friday.
It was the third loss for Impact — coached by former France and Arsenal star Thierry Henry — in four matches after reaching the round of 16 in backdoor fashion as a third-place finisher from Group C.
2020 had started well for Impact before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to play in mid-March.
“We knew it was going to be a different game tonight because it was in the knockout round. It didn’t work out for us today. We were a bit better against DC defensively, but today it didn’t happen,” said Henry.
Orlando had the better chances of the opening half and were eventually rewarded when they scored off Fanni’s defensive error.